Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, has asked the Pentagon for info on how many troops in war zones have been prescribed antidepressants while they were deployed. Cardin sent a letter Tuesday to US Department of Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressing concern about how antidepressants are being administered troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Cardin wants to determine if the Defense Department is prescribing antidepressants appropriately and is concerned about any connection between the meds and suicide rates among troops. In October, for instance, 16 active-duty US soldiers killed themselves, bringing the total number of active-duty suicides in 2009 to 134. At this rate, the number of 2009 suicides will eclipse last year's total of 140 - the highest yearly number of suicides in Army history. Cardin also notes the rate of active-duty suicides is greater than that of the US population, although he doesn't question the "long-term efficacy" of the drugs.